Written by: Cecilia Arango
I’ve ran the Publix Savannah Women’s Half Marathon & 5K since it first started in 2014 and have served as an ambassador for the race for the last three years. What’s so unique about the Publix Savannah Women’s Half is that it’s the first women’s race in Savannah and has a completely different feel than the other local races in town. Even though it’s a women’s race, men can still sign up and run! As the Hostess City of the South, we don’t turn anyone away so y’all come back now, ya hear!
What I love best about this race is the route. As a local Savannahian, I can tell you it’s the prettiest half marathon course in the city. Not only do you get to see the beautiful vibrant pinks, purples, and various shades of magenta-colored azaleas in full bloom, you also get to run around 12 of Savannah’s historically well known city squares (7 for the 5K) designed by the OG himself, General Oglethorpe. Views of Spanish moss-draped majestic oaks shade the paths of the course and you can’t help but ogle at all the beautiful architecture of the buildings and homes lining the route. In addition, we enter Chatham Crescent and into one of Savannah’s most popular and quaint neighborhoods, Ardsley Park, where runners get to enjoy one of Savannah’s prettiest roads, Washington Avenue. This road is completely shaded by oak canopies and is a gorgeous sight to see. I run this street for my training runs and I never tire of it. You’ll also enjoy running through Daffin Park and past one of the oldest baseball stadiums (circa 1926), Historic Grayson Stadium, home to our beloved and most entertaining baseball team, The Savannah Bananas (a Coastal Plain collegiate summer baseball league). It’s also the only major race that has a finish line in the middle of Forysth Park where runners get to sprint past the most iconic (and photographed) fountain in the city! It’s pretty much one of the symbols of Savannah.
Instead of shirts, participants get a nifty bag! This year, we got an awesome gray backpack. In years past, we got duffel and messenger bags. I am such a bag lady that I use all of mine all the time! They’re perfect for overnight trips and carry-on bags! As a breath of fresh air from the normal race expos, you’ll also find non-runner things sold from our local vendors in town, such as assortments of honey and skin products from Savannah Bee and Nourish, beautiful baubles from Kendra Scott, authentic handmade leather purses and wallets from Satchel, coastal Savannah-themed gifts from Spartina, flavored salts from The Salt Table, and popcorn with colorful flavors of the rainbow from Savannah Rae’s. On the fitness side, you can learn more about yoga from Dancing Dogs Yoga, tucking from Pure Barre Savannah, and full-body workouts coming from Orange Theory. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone. I volunteer each year for a few hours in the morning at the registration table so make sure you come visit me!
Once again, I was asked to kick off the race with the singing of the National Anthem (which always give me anxiety). This is a tough song to belt out first thing in the morning, but anxiety or not, I still love it. After taking a quick group picture with the ambassadors gang, I walked up to the announcer table to prepare. Fitz Koehler, our race announcer, is absolutely a dynamic ball of energy – which is so imperative to have at the race start and the finish! She really gets you pumped for the race and welcomes you through the finish with the biggest smile! I loved seeing her video she posted of bringing in the final finisher. Both had the greatest smiles on their faces and it was a beautiful sight to witness! Also, did I mention this race gives out FREE race photos?! THE BEST! Thank you sportsphotos.com!
This year, we had blue skies and slightly warmer temperatures. With a busy month of races ahead and the Publix Savannah Women’s Half kicking off the first one for the month, I decided to take it easy and run with friends. It was fun to cheer on all the ladies running the race and I came through the finish line with a big smile on my face. As the volunteer graced my neck with my newest half marathon medal, I looked around to watch all the other runners around me wearing not just a new shiny medal, but wearing some of the biggest smiles. Afterwards, I grabbed a mimosa and recounted my race recap with my friends, while some of us stood and others sat in the green plush grass listening to this year’s rocking post-race band, Ember City. They sounded amazing!
I wish I could’ve stayed a bit longer to enjoy the post-race festivities, but being a local means I also have other duties to attend. I had to quickly jet off to my Savannah Bicycle Campaign Board retreat to discuss making Savannah more bike and pedestrian/runner-safe. Hopefully, next year I’ll get to relax in the sun, lounging on a picnic blanket, listening to band tunes and downing a refreshing mimosa, and relishing in another successful half marathon. Next year, I hope to also enjoy a nice stretch with the complimentary Sunday yoga session given by Dancing Dogs Yoga at Ellis Square. I hope you guys will join me! See you in 2019 – it’s going to be a milestone year! Will you be a legacy runner?